Funds Available at SAMHSA, OJJDP; Young Teens Sentenced to Die in Prison; New Boss at ETA; and more

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A few federal funding notices and some interesting stories on the state level this week:

***The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention announced the availability of 2009 funds for the Tribal Youth Program. Only tribes are eligible to apply, but they can sub-grant money to other entities seeking to work with youth on reservations. The deadline is May 28.

***For organizations that are or have been Drug Free Communities grantees, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has $1 million to give out for efforts to curb underage drinking. Winners will likely get about $50,000 annually for up to four years. Deadline is May 26.

***Pinellas County started Florida's first Juvenile Welfare Board back in 1946, a brilliant system in which a fixed percentage of property tax revenue is dedicated to serving at-risk youth, including those involved in the juvenile justice system. The model has spread across the state, and in Pinellas it remains one of the largest streams of human services funds available.

In 2007, the county created a management entity - Pinellas Core Management Services (PCMS), overseen by JWB employee Paul Lackey - that to manage the finances and books for many of the small programs that receive JWB grants. But after two tumultuous years, JWB is disbanding PCMS after finding that it was actually doing a worse job managing finances than the mom-and-pop programs would have done.

It was interesting to JJ Today that the board shut down PCMS instead of simply changing its leadership, because on its face the agency seems like a really good idea. It consolidates bookkeeping in an organization that specializes in exactly that, which eliminates either of two things: untrained staff handling financial paperwork, or the need to hire a staffer or accountant who can do the books. With the right people handling that work, it's hard to see how everybody doesn't win.

***New Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law that made permanent Redeploy Illinois, a successful project designed to reduce the number of incarcerated juveniles. 

The project used large counties as pilots and offered them money to handle post-adjudication plans for juveniles within the county. That was the carrot; the stick came in the form of a fine for any participating county that did not lower the number of youths sent to state facilities by at least 25 percent.

The 70 non-pilot communities had no such incentive; it's far cheaper to pawn young offenders on the state-run juvenile facilities.

Now, every county will be able to receive the in-county incentives, which is great news if you are in the business of providing alternative JJ programming in Illinois or intend to do so. The success of Redeploy Illinois will hinge on the availability to smaller counties of the same alternatives to state incarceration that helped pilot counties. If the options available to judges and county agencies are limited, reliance on state incarceration would probably continue.

***'s Stephanie Chen took a look at the 73 teens that are doing life sentences without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed when they were 13 or 14 years old. The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), based in Montgomery, Ala., has appealed many of the cases in state or federal court based on the argument that such a sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment for teens that young. Hard to tell how long EJI can stay the course without some help; the organization is reporting a major loss of funding this year.

The craziest number within those 73 inmates? Almost half of those them are in Pennsylvania and Florida! No other state has more than four offenders who committed crimes between 13 and 14. Anyone know what's going on in those states? Neither state has a minimum age threshold for transfer to criminal court. 

***Idaho Supreme Court Justice Wayne Kidwell said his court colleagues set a dangerous precedent this week when they decreed that Trevor Reizenstein should be tried as adult for a brutal rape of a girl he allegedly committed at the age of 12. A psychiatrist and a local juvenile probation committee both felt that Reizenstein should be handled within the state's juvenile justice system.

"A professional evaluation committee determined that this young person should be treated as a juvenile," Kidwell wrote (he was the lone dissenter in the decision). "The subjective waiver evidence appears based primarily on the emotional circumstances."

***The administration has officially nominated Jane Oates to head the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (ETA). Oates has been a shoo-in to get the job for months. ETA funds efforts to help juvenile offenders reenter their home communities.

  • Dr. Edward Pabon

    To answer your question about Pennsylvania, in spite of the Models for Change and the Macarthur Initiative, outside of the metro areas, Pennsylvania is a very rigid, controlling, racist,and punitive state. If prosecutors had their way, every juvenile would be tried as an adult. In addition, if yoy look at who is being tried as an adult, you will find that minorities, especially African-Americans, are disproportionately found in their detention, jails, and prisons.